Nowadays, as a professional cyclist, my entire day can be centered around my workout. It hasn’t always been like that though. When I was attending college and working to reach this level, my ride had to fit around my day and not the other way around. I think that for most people with full time jobs, that’s the way that it goes.

Cycling can be such a time-consuming sport and when you only have an hour to get your workout in, the last thing you want to do is spend it servicing your bike, putting on five layers of clothing, and trying to figure out a route. Spinning (Cycling) is one of the safest, most time efficient ways to get in a good workout on days that you cannot make it to the trails!

NordicTrack S22i Exercise Bike Review
NordicTrack S22i Exercise Bike Review

Why is Spinning good for mountain biking?

Time Efficiency (Fast MTB Workout)

One of the biggest advantages of using a spin bike for mountain bike training is the time efficiency. There is little to no bike set up or maintenance. All you need is a pair of cycling shorts and shoes. You don’t have to worry about putting on layers, pumping up your tires, filling your pockets with flat changing tools, or even putting on your helmet.

If you have an hour to ride, and don’t want to spend 15-30 minutes of that preparing, then a spin bike is a great way to get your workout in and move on with your day.

  • Workout Efficiency – Continuously Working Your Legs

In addition to time efficiency, a spin bike allows for great workout efficiency. Meaning, you get a lot of bang for your buck with a spin workout. While on the road you might find yourself coasting downhills or through corners, a spin bike requires constant pedaling.

Additionally, you can load your workout up with intervals. If you are outside on roads or trails it can be difficult to hold your specific intensities because of downhills, u-turns, stop lights, or traffic. On a spin bike there is never an excuse to come off of the gas. 

  • Safety – Mountain Bikers get Hurt

Riding outside is dangerous. It’s a risk most of us are willing to take, but every now and then it’s nice to take the worry out of your workouts. Spinning provides a safe environment for intervals when you can’t pay as much attention to traffic.

Read about the ways mountain bikers get hurt in this article. Common Mountain Bike Injuries and How to Prevent Them

It is also a great option for early morning or late-night workouts that have to be done in the dark. At the risk of stating the obvious, it’s also great for escaping the adverse and sometimes dangerous conditions of a harsh winter or a summer thunder storm.

  • More Data – Learn and Measure for Riding Improvement

For most cyclists, a spin bike will also provide them with the most data while they ride. Power meters and bike computers are expensive and are usually add-ons to your already expensive bicycle. Spin bikes usually have that information built right into the system so that you can utilize it from day one.

Getting a great cardio workout is part of riding a spin bike. Read more about How to Ride a Mountain Bike for a Cardio Workout (link to article)

How Can I Make the Most out of my Spin Workout?

Spin workouts are what you make them. There are a lot of little tips and tricks to not only break up your workout and make it more entertaining, but to help you get stronger and faster too!

1. What is the best spinning cadence for mountain bike?

The correct answer is: all cadences! The most efficient way to produce power will be to maintain a cadence somewhere between 80-90 RPM, but on the mountain bike, going up and down trails, that isn’t always possible. Try to mimic that on the spin bike by increasing and decreasing your cadence to help build leg strength or leg speed.

Pro Tip: During the off-season incorporate at least one cadence workout per week. You can try low cadence work in a hard gear at less than 60 RPM or high cadence work in an easy gear at 100+ RPM.

2. Do I need special shoes for spin class?

The best thing you can do is find a spin class that will allow you to use your own mountain bike shoes and pedals. The more your spin bike feels like you are riding your own bike the more effective it will be. The position of your cleat on your shoes will impact what muscles you use while riding so you want to make everything as similar to your own set up as possible. That way you can be sure that you are strengthening the correct muscles.

Riding my NordicTrack S22i Trainer
Riding my NordicTrack S22i Trainer

If the spin class does not allow you to use your own shoes and pedals then often times, they will provide you with some of their own. Call ahead and ask about your options.

Pro Tip: If you become a regular at a spin class then consider measuring your bike and the bike in the studio so that you can adjust the saddle height and reach to your bars to match your bike as well.

3. How can I make the spin bike more entertaining?

Taking a spin class is the easiest way to make it more entertaining. An instructor and other class members will not only make working out more entertaining, but it will also be motivating.

If you want to spin on your own and avoid the class environment, then try following courses like Zwift or iFit. You can also watch movies, listen to podcasts or audio books, or just crank up some music.

Pro Tip: While intervals might make your workout feel harder, it also makes the time go by much more quickly. Try mixing up your intensities and you’ll find the time just melts away.

Have you ever thought about whether mountain biking is better than running? Find out in this article – Mountain Biking vs Running

Where Does Spinning Fall Short?

1. Technical MTB Skills

While spinning can make you fit, it cannot help you learn how to better navigate the trail. Spinning won’t help you with your cornering, trail reading, or balance. When you return back to the trail make sure you allow your technical skills to catch up with your fitness.

2. Different Equipment from Stationary to Reality

Spinning uses different equipment than you will on the trail. You might feel slightly off as you transfer from a spin bike back to your mountain bike.

Pro Tip: Ride your mountain bike on the road before jumping on the trail. Getting used to your own bike fit in a more controlled environment could help mitigate crashes on the trail.

3. Tough to Build MTB Endurance

If you are training for some of these popular endurance races then spinning can make endurance rides a challenge. While spinning does give you a lot of bang for your buck, it is rare (and not necessarily recommended) to spin for 3+ hours at a time.

Pro Tip: If you are training for a long endurance race and spinning is your only option then try completing 2 a-days to get more time in on the bike. You can also work on fatigue resistance by doing your intervals later on in the workout. For example, ride for an hour before completing your interval set.

Riding mountain bikes on the hard trails
Riding mountain bikes on the hard trails

What are some other indoor training ideas for mountain biking?

1. Strength Training for MTBers

Strength training is the perfect addition to any indoor mountain bike training routine. Strength training can help fill in the gaps that spinning leaves in a mountain biker’s fitness. Mountain biking is a full body sport. It requires upper body strength for both performance, safety, and injury prevention.

Strength training can be a fancy full body routine involving weights and special equipment at a gym or it can be a simple as body weight exercises in your home. The biggest mistake people make with strength is thinking that it’s an all or nothing endeavor. Even a few minutes or a few exercises a day can make a big difference.

Pro Tip: Plan out 3-5 exercises you will do before starting your workout. It’s much easier to accomplish good training if you have a plan beforehand.

2. Balance Training Improves Mountain Biking

Balance training is another great thing to incorporate into your indoor workout routine. Mountain biking requires a lot of balance and stabilization which is actually something that you can train. If you aren’t able to get out and train on the mountain bike to practice those skills in real world scenarios then try practicing those skills in your house.

Pro Tip: While many people think that balance training has to be crazy acrobatic moves, it can actually be as simple as incorporating a few single leg exercises into your strength training routine.

3. Flexibility and Mobility Training

Flexibility is the ability for your muscles to stretch and lengthen and mobility is the ability of your joints to move through a full range of motion. While the two can sometimes impact each other, they are not one in the same.

You can work on flexibility through stretching and foam rolling. It’s important to incorporate those exercises into your routine, not only for recovery but for injury prevention and performance. Mobility on the other hand is best achieved though active movements and isometric contractions.

4. Mental Training – See the Trail

Never underestimate the power of mental training. Visualization of trails and difficult obstacles can go a long way to increase your confidence and neuromuscular connections. It doesn’t have to be something fancy. Just set aside 5 minutes to close your eyes and imagine yourself riding trails smoothly. Picture yourself overcoming obstacles and successfully conquering features. Visualizing for just 5 minutes a day can help form new connections in the brain that will benefit you out on the trails.

Make the Most of It!

Some people love spinning, others dread swinging their leg over the stationary bike. No matter where you fall on that spectrum, make the most of your ride. I believe that training is only as good as you believe that it is. Believe in your ability to improve, and the speed will follow.

Want More Mountain Bike Reading?

Mountain Bike Shoe's for Spinning
Mountain Bike Shoe’s for Spinning